DNA Study Helps Solve Abraham Lincoln Lineage Debate

The ancestry of Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, has been debated for a long time. While several theories have been published, none of them included convincing proof. Now a new DNA study by group of five researchers working with Family Tree DNA has solved a 150-year-old mystery surrounding the true identity of Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s mother.

The study of the matrilineal kin of Abraham Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks has demonstrated that Lincoln’s mitochondrial DNA belonged to a very rare haplogroup X1c, and has provided evidence of the maternal ancestry of Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

The results of the Nancy Hanks Lincoln mtDNA Study have been published at www.familytreedna.com/public/HanksDNAProject.

My thanks to newsletter reader Lynna Kay Shuffield for telling me about this new study.


I could not access this story of the NANCY HANKS LINCOLN mtDNA STUDY directly by this link provided. I then went into the Family Tree DNA website and used my membership number and pin and still could not find it. I’d like to read it as I “think” there is a link in my husband’s line, and hope something pops up to verirfy the final link.


Once you’ve clicked the link, the website gives instructions to access the details. Click then choose . I’m not a member and had no problems.


Sorry the above instructions weren’t clear. Click ABOUT OUR GROUP and then choose NEWS.


Linda Herrick Swisher November 5, 2015 at 10:24 am

I didn’t know his mother’s ancestry was in question; I always read that the identity of his father was the issue?


Excellent article and research. This is very useful to those in Virginia’s Northern Neck and in particular the Mary Ball Washington Museum & Library where this topic is often reviewed. Thank you Dick for sharing this, and also to your correspondent Lynna Kay Shuffield for passing it along. Great stuff!


My “guess” would be that Henry Sparrow was the biological father of the two Hanks sisters before he married Lucy Hanks. That would not be uncommon for this time period in Richmond County and the Northern Neck. But I don’t know that any Y-DNA testing could ever establish that. This is an excellent example of how to use mtDNA.


I would like to see DNA results for Abe Lincoln’s father. Lincoln looks more like pictures of Wesley Enloe. Folks in the mountains of North Carolina believe that Wesley Enloe is, in fact, Abe Lincoln’s father.


I agree with the researching Lincoln’s father. In South Carolina it has been said for years Lincoln’s father was John C. Calhoun. They do look a little bit alike.


Yet another theory of Lincoln’s father is that he was George Brownfield, where the Lincolns lived as tenant farmers (so it is said) when Abraham was conceived. One rationale for this is that Marpans syndrome runs in that line, and some say Lincoln had Marpans syndrome. Tons of conjecture, to be sure…but I had never heard of John C. Calhoun being a putative father of Abe. That’s a new one for me.


On the other hand, there is no good reason to believe that Lincoln’s father was none other than…Tom Lincoln.


Dick – It would have been helpful if you had published the new Hank’s line – Art Young


    The “new” Hanks line is described in detail if you click on the link in the above article and then do as it says: “For full study details select “NEWS” from the “ABOUT THIS GROUP” drop-down menu.” That article was written by specialists who know a lot more about the subject than I do. It even includes a descendancy chart showing the relationships.


Interesting lineage detail and an interesting conversation. I did not have any trouble reaching the site.


Janice Pavlisko Robinson July 31, 2018 at 6:59 am

There have been a few crackpot theories that argue that Thomas Lincoln was not Abraham Lincoln’s father, but none that have the least credibility and none that more than a few crackpots believe in. It has been Lincoln’s mother ancestry that was in question, due to a lack of supporting documents. The prevailing theory has been that she was the illegitimate daughter of Lucy Hanks, herself the daughter of Joseph and Anne Lee Hanks, and that, due to Nancy’s illegitimacy, the identity of her father is unknown, and that Nancy went by the name of her mother, Hanks. Someone came up with a countering theory that Nancy was the legitimate daughter of the legally wed Lucy Shipley and Joseph Hanks, a brother of Lucy Hanks. The DNA testing disproved this second theory. It seems almost certain that Nancy was the illegitimate daughter of Lucy Hanks and that we’ll never know the identity of her father. Illegitimacy was not unheard of in the Hanks family; Lucy Hanks’ sister Nancy had an illegitimate son who went by the Hanks name, Dennis Hanks. Lucy Hanks was brought up on charges of fornication. So that’s that. I guess some people have not wanted to believe that Lincoln’s grandmother was a loose woman, lol, but I don’t see the big deal.


Stephan A. Whitlock February 7, 2020 at 11:52 pm

Hello, my name is Steve Whitlock and I was one of the researchers for the lines used in the Nancy Hanks Lincoln MTDNA Study. If Elizabeth who posted 11 Oct 2016 is still watching I would like to talk with her about the X1c haplogroup she claimed for her family. Elizabeth, please contact me at ctn59880@centurytel.net.


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